Life Progress

Happy birthday David! :) My little brother is now 17. Time moves so quickly.

Speaking of time, yesterday I formally accepted an offer from Impermium, a mid-stage startup in Redwood City. ~15 engineers at time of writing. Really excited to start there in June, a few weeks following graduation! I’m already drawing up plans to live with Karan and Onur (and potentially Nathan if he’s down) in SF!

Man it’s really weird how job hunting goes. One day you don’t have too many options, then suddenly you have way too many.

I know the conventional wisdom is “at this age, don’t optimize for money.” And I’m definitely not doing that, *but* coming out of college with a good amount of debt really puts on the pressure to get rid of that burden. So joining super early startups who compensate with mostly equity was not possible for me :(

My main rationale for choosing Impermium was because they had the coolest tech amidst all the companies I interviewed with. I actually really liked a company in NYC but a few things really swayed me (sudden urge to be in the bay area probably brought upon by the bitter Illinois winter, realization that 90% of my friends will be there), and again, dat technology.

I also really liked a different startup in the bay area (especially from the rocket ship standpoint, their equity was probably the most valuable from all the companies I interviewed with) but I didn’t feel like their technical challenges would afford me the opportunity to learn as much. And so not going with them was in fact not taking the money — looking instead for a higher intellectual growth rate. Presumably. I’ll never know for sure.

Observation: *every* company feels like they offer the highest intellectual growth rate. My feeling is that it varies per person. The way I (subjectively) calculated intellectual growth rate was by estimating my interest level in a company’s technology, then looking at the perceived “difficulty” of their core technologies (read: tech central to their business), and if the two were both high, then I supposed my future intellectual growth there would be high, since I’d both be interested and their stuff would be hard / interesting / something I’m not yet good at.

Motivation + high ceiling + badass potential mentors = intellectual growth?

A big graphics company also offered an internship in their mobile computer vision group which (this surprised people I talked to) was my top choice for a while because of my deep-seated interest in vision. Also because my friend works there and he would have been my mentor…that was a huge plus. But it being a big company and Impermium being unable to guarantee I would have an opportunity later on with them meant I had to decide between the cool startup working on badass algos as a core business, or the big corp with badass algos in my favorite field but only as an internship and the risk of me becoming a shelfcoder.

At Impermium I’ll have the opportunity to work with what I think are the coolest technologies: actual big data (think the combined traffic of tumblr+espn+every site with a comment field, signup, or login page), natural language processing to fight spam and recognize “bad guys,” machine learning to tune the algorithms and pick up on the adversary’s new strategies, and eventually vision to pick up on spammy photo data. There’s no shortage of interesting work to be had there. I also like that it seems the company is building out features as they think of them. Massively smart people, many ex-Yahoo spam team members. It’s like a company made up of data scientists and algo thugs << that’s what I call them Gs who roll difficult algorithms. I think the average age at Impermium is quite a bit older than me, but that’s a plus in my mind because they’ve got so much experience to share and to help to mold me into the programmer I want to be.

I really enjoyed their interview process too: much of the standard stuff, a dynamic programming question of course, but at the onsite they wanted me to write an actual program in my own programming environment! So I wrote an actual (cool) program — they wanted to see my process, how I debugged, my style, etc. That said a lot to me about their evaluation. They even gave me a choice between two cool things to code. Both were compelling and interesting and I had a lot of fun — I chose the one that I hadn’t done before because it looked super fun.

I’m super super excited. Also a¬†little bit sad that I can’t try every opportunity that presented itself throughout my job search because there were some seriously cool opportunities, but ultimately satisfied with my decision.

A positive side note: throughout the job hunt I had really bad travel experiences and schizophrenic moments trying to figure out what to do with various opportunities. Most of the people (recruiters, execs, etc) I came into contact with were extremely understanding and¬†accommodating. It’s funny but advice from people in *other* companies strongly influenced my decision to go to Impermium. When people are honest / behave in a manner not self-serving, it’s really heartwarming and restores my faith in humanity.